Ruby Pryde - Nov 09 2020
Adrenal Fatigue. Let's Talk.
Adrenal fatigue is a common but extremely overlooked condition that the people of the 21st century, unbeknownst to most, may be suffering from.
Generally a cycle of ‘tired but can’t sleep’, adrenal fatigue may trigger an irregular pattern of fatigue that inhibits your body's ability to understand when it should be awake and when it should be asleep.
Let’s paint a little picture of how this might look...
Your alarm has gone off at least three times. Struggling to remember what day it is, you’re barely able to open your eyes. You need to get up for work.
Two double shot espressos by 9:00am and you’re finally gaining a little momentum for the day ahead. Just a rough start to the morning, right?
The afternoon rolls around, and you’re trying to convince yourself not to nod off at your desk. And by 8:00pm, you have the most energy you’ve had all day - sleep seeming like a near impossible task. Where was all of this energy when you needed it twelve hours ago?
If this cycle sounds all too familiar, you may be experiencing adrenal fatigue.
This term has been used to explain a group of symptoms that may occur in (but not exclusive to), well, just about anyone who lives the hustle and bustle that is the Western world.
Signs and symptoms of adrenal fatigue may include:
- Fatigue / irregular fatigue patterns (tired in the morning, wired at night)
- Body aches / poor muscle recovery
- Intestinal problems
- Mood swings
- Brain fog
- Lack of motivation
- No zest for life
At the core of it, adrenal fatigue is a direct result of chronic stress.
Now, if you’re reading this and thinking to yourself “sure I have a couple of those symptoms, but I’m hardly stressed”, don’t be so quick to dismiss!
When we think of stress, we often imagine someone frantically ripping their hair out and on the verge of a mental breakdown. And whilst that may or may not be true for you, stress that contributes to adrenal fatigue doesn’t necessarily have to be the latter.
Our modern day lifestyle, whether we like to admit it or not, is a relatively stressful environment. Energetically speaking, we live in a masculine dominant world. We are primed to always be on, always be available and always be ten steps ahead of the next person (and then some).
We are conditioned to believe that working late into the night, attending every event on the calendar and working our bodies to complete exhaustion in every workout, is normal.
From your body's point of view, this lifestyle is anything BUT normal.
Okay, well what are our adrenals and why are they so damn important?
Our adrenals are two bean shaped glands that curve over the top of our kidneys. They produce a variety of hormones, like cortisol, adrenaline and our sex hormones.
These hormones are designed to work together to help the body cope with mostly brief or short-term stressful situations. Cortisol specifically is a wakeful hormone that prevents you from falling asleep.
Think of these little glands as the trusty fuel that our ancestors kept in their back pocket and used when they were being chased by a lion. A quick burst of energy for a (hopefully) short term stressful situation.
Nowadays, whilst we aren’t necessarily being chased by a lion, our bodies have a tough time telling the difference between that and having an argument with our significant other or working late into the night. We are running in a constant state of fight or flight, always being prepared for the next ‘lion’ to come charging around the corner.
As a result, our adrenals end up working over time. Trying to produce enough cortisol to keep up with the stressors around us, but struggling to do so for these extended periods of time.
Production of cortisol, whilst necessary for our survival, can wreak havoc on our systems in higher and prolonged amounts. Eventually, our adrenals become tanked, unable to produce adequate amounts of cortisol, and then we find ourselves struggling to keep up with the bare minimum of our day to day. An imbalance of supply and demand, if you will.
So, what can you do if you feel as though you have adrenal fatigue?
First things first - address your stress.
Now, we understand that’s a pretty broad statement. But let’s start with the basics.
Are you getting enough, quality sleep? Sleep is a big factor in helping your system rest and recover! Similarly, too much work or exercise can stress your body by disrupting your sleep, demanding inconsistent or long hours, or pushing your body physically.
Are you bickering more often than not with your loved ones? Are you consuming large amounts of news or social media? Is your calendar full from now until next year with little to no down time pencilled in?
Not taking enough time to rest and reflect can have a hugely negative effect on your mental health, and prevent you from unwinding at the end of the day.
What you eat also plays a vital role in your stress levels. Make sure you're fuelling your body with whole foods rather than large amounts of processed and packaged products that tend to have a diminished nutritional value.
Whether one or two of those resonate, or if you feel like all of the above just described you in a nutshell, any of these factors can contribute to our ability to cope with and respond to stress. Particularly not getting enough, quality sleep each night.
Ok, so you’ve pointed out what may be triggering my fight or flight, but what can I be doing right now to help nourish my little pocket rockets? We thought you’d never ask!
We’ve listed a couple of action steps below that will allow your body to develop the ability to better respond to stressors in your life (you can thank us later):
Boost your beauty sleep
Focus on getting to bed no later than 10:30pm. Limiting your screen time 1 - 2 hours before bed ((bonus points for turning on the blue light filters on your devices) will also help you improve your sleep quality.
Fuel your body the right way!
Drink at least 2 litres of water per day (ensuring you are adequately hydrated will help your body flush out toxins accumulated from stress).
Eating a whole food diet, and limiting the amount of processed and packaged food you consume is also oh so important in supporting your mind, body and soul.
Meditating is a must
Now, this doesn’t necessarily have to look like your cross legged, eyes closed kind of meditation (unless of course you’re into that!) but something that will help you get into the present moment and bring your nervous system back into a state of equilibrium (think colouring, reading, spending time in nature, painting, dancing etc).
Limiting your social media and news consumption, particularly anything that is emotionally draining is oh so important to consider when winding down.
Consider less coffee
Limit caffeine intake to no more than two cups before lunch time - adrenals that are already working around the clock mixed with a major dose of caffeine is nothing more than a hormonal train wreck waiting to happen.
Switch out your second or third morning java for something that’s a little kinder on the adrenals like a matcha latte. Prolonged and sustained energy, without the afternoon crash.
Although small, your adrenals shouldn’t be overlooked. We live busy lives and really enjoy doing so, so rather than being reactive, be proactive. Give your adrenals some extra TLC and they’ll be sure to give it straight back!
Remember however, that adrenal fatigue shouldn’t be confused with adrenal imbalances such as Cushing's Disease, Addison’s Disease or adrenal insufficiency. If you have any concerns, make sure to consult your doctor.
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